If time travel is ever going to be possible, then time travelers from the future should have visited us already. So where are they? A pair of physicists at Michigan Technological University think there might be a way of finding out -- with a simple Google search.
As movies like "Back to the Future" show, time travel into the past could have frightening, future-altering consequences. So if time travelers have visited us already, it's possible they've just been laying low so as not to disrupt the fabric of history. But even technologically savvy future humans are likely to have made some mistakes, or at least left some trace of their visit. Right?
That's the hunch that physicists Robert Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson are working on, according to ScienceNews.org. They surmise that if there are time travelers from the future living in modern times, then it's possible they have slipped up on occasion by accidentally conducting Google searches for things that haven't happened yet. For instance, perhaps someone typed "Comet ISON" into Google before the comet was ever discovered, or searched for "Pope Francis" before he became Pope.
If such mistakes have been made, then it could be possible to prove the existence of time travelers by simply looking at Google search logs to see if anyone searched for these items before they were known to exist.
Unfortunately, so far Nemiroff and Wilson have turned up no evidence of past searches for these items in particular. But their research has only been preliminary and limited to a few items. They found that conducting past searches for Google queries can actually be rather onerous. This is because sites that keep records on such things typically only keep track of high volume searches. One or two rogue searches for "Comet ISON" before 2012 (the year the comet was discovered) are not likely to have been recorded. And besides, who's to say that "Comet ISON" would be a common search item for time travelers?
The researchers found it easier to comprehensively search Twitter, but also failed to turn up any evidence there of Comet ISON being tweeted about before its discovery.
A more comprehensive search for accidental internet queries involving more search items might have more luck. Then again, it might not. After all, time travelers from the future ought to know what's coming. Perhaps they are already aware of Nemiroff's and Wilson's study and preemptively made sure to erase all trace of their accidental internet searches. Maybe they don't even use Google or Twitter.
Even so, Nemiroff and Wilson remain optimistic in the possible existence of time travelers despite the lack of evidence to date. "Although the negative results reported here may indicate that time travelers from the future are not among us and cannot communicate with us over the modern day Internet, they are by no means proof," they wrote in their paper.
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